Holiday Seafood Brunch
Every year I promise myself that I will do something a little different for holiday recipes, and I usually end up falling back into that which is traditional.  This year I decided to follow through.  The internet is filled with sites, including this one, that feature the holiday offerings we are all intimate with, but no matter how creatively prepared, it's still turkey, and ham, and lamb.  This time I decided to go with a couple of recipes suitable for a Christmas or New Year's brunch, and I'm going with seafood.  For years I have heard about seafood based holiday meals in the tradition of the Atlantic coast and New England, so here are a few items that follow that theme.

Blackhawk Eggs Benedict
toasted english muffins
poached eggs
lobster, claws & tail slices or smoked salmon, sliced thin
tarragon hollandaise sauce (below)
baby spinach leaves or blanched asparagus spears

1 stick of unsalted butter
3 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, minced
salt, to taste
white pepper, to taste


Melt and cool butter, remove foam and pour off solids.  Whisk yolks, water, and lemon juice over double boiler until light yellow and smooth.  Whisk butter into yolks in a slow stream, until sauce is well blended and smooth.  Add tarragon and season with salt and white pepper.  Make sauce when ready to plate, holding is tricky.  It is sensitive to mishandling and can easily curdle or break. 
This is by far my absolute favorite brunch course, and it offers a fair opportunity for personalization, by choosing from different seafoods and vegetables.
To assemble, place a muffin half on the plate, add a few of the vegetables, then some seafood, then a single egg.  Finish with a couple of spoonfuls of the sauce.  Garnish with a little chopped tarragon and a sprinkle of cayenne if desired.  One or two per person is about right, depending on how many other dishes are being served.

Poaching eggs is an intimidating task to some, but not the most difficult thing in the world to do, it just takes some practice, and this is a pretty forgiving application.  If you need instructions, shoot me an e-mail.
Lobster with Garlic Mojo
large, cooked, peeled/deveined, tail on shrimp
lemon juice
chopped cilantro
lemon wedges
salt, to taste
ice
1 jar prepared cocktail sauce
1 chipotle chile (canned in adobo) mashed

Simmer the garlic in the oil (over low heat) to flavor it.  Add to a food processor bowl or blender jar with stock and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper, blend until smooth.  Remove and reserve 1/4 of this mixture.  Add chipotle and blend again.  Transfer to a saucepan and hold at a simmer.  Season lobster flesh with salt and pepper, brush with reserved garlic/oil mixture.  Grill tails flesh side down for 2 minutes until marked, flip and grill shell side down until done (3-4 minutes longer.)  Serve with lime wedges, topped with the reserved mojo and sprinkled with cilantro.
The lobster is prepped by splitting them lengthwise.  The easiest way to do this is to cut the shell from tip to tail, top and bottom with a pair of kitchen shears, and then cutting the flesh with a sharp knife, resulting in two equal sized serving pieces.
This recipes is written for the grill.  If you are not from Chicago (like yours truly, and the chef who inspired this variation, Rick Bayless), and you don't grill year round, you could do it in a grill pan or skillet, and a well ventilated kitchen.  But nothing tastes better than grilled food, so buck up, pour yourself a drink, and stand outside for a few minutes  Your sacrifice will be rewarded.
Blackhawk Smoked Shrimp and Chipotle Cocktail
1/3 cup  olive oil
8 cloves  garlic, peeled
2/3 cup  chicken stock
salt and pepper
1 chipotle chile (canned in adobo)
4 lobster tails
1/2 cup  cilantro, chopped
lime wedges
This is a "free style" recipe, in that there are no quantities listed for most of the ingredients.  This one can be made by sight.  I brine and smoke my shrimp, but if you don't have a smoker, or don't want to be bothered, you can use unsmoked meat as well.  I also make my own cocktail sauce, but following the theme of simplicity, jarred sauce works just as well.

Simply mix the shrimp in a bowl with a squeeze of lemon juice, and enough cilantro to distribute a nice, green element throughout, toss in the lemon wedges and a couple of pinches of salt, and transfer to your serving vessel.  I use a trifle dish for small batches (2 pounds of shrimp or so.)  You can use a large, wide mouthed bowl or punch bowl for larger quantities.  Fill the bottom of the bowl with ice, and place the shrimp mixture on top of it.  Blend the cocktail sauce with the chipotle and serve it alongside.